Russian Hackers Stole Opposition Research On Donald Trump From The DNC

Russian hackers got into the network of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and stole opposition research on Donald Trump, according to the Washington Post.

Beyond the research, the hackers gained access to DNC emails and chat messages. Data from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s campaigns were also targeted.

“The intrusions are an example of Russia’s interest in the U.S. political system and its desire to understand the policies, strengths and weaknesses of a potential future president — much as American spies gather similar information on foreign candidates and leaders,” the Post wrote.

No financial or personal information was taken from the DNC, but the hackers had access to its network for over a year. The DNC reached out to the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike when unusual network activity was discovered.

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“The security of our system is critical to our operation and to the confidence of the campaigns and state parties we work with,” DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz told ABC News. “When we discovered the intrusion, we treated this like the serious incident it is and reached out to CrowdStrike immediately. Our team moved as quickly as possible to kick out the intruders and secure our network.”

This isn’t the first time political networks have been breached by foreign entities. President Obama and John McCain’s campaigns were breached by Chinese hackers in 2008, and Russian hackers accessed unclassified emails from President Obama in 2014, according to Gizmodo.

A Russian embassy spokesman told the Post they were not aware of the hacking.

“We’re perceived as an adversary of Russia,” CrowdStrike President Shawn Henry told the Post. “Their job when they wake up every day is to gather intelligence against the policies, practices and strategies of the U.S. government. There are a variety of ways. [Hacking] is one of the more valuable because it gives you a treasure trove of information.”

The purpose of the hack may have been for Russian officials to have a better understanding of Donald Trump so they know how to handle him if he becomes president.

The hack was allegedly carried out by two groups of hackers employed by the Russian government. One was looking for email and chat messages, and the other was focused on the Trump research. The Post reported the hackers may have gotten into the network using a method called “spearphishing,” where hackers send employees emails that contain links or attachments that can cause a network breach.

The DNC has now installed new software in its computers that is meant to prevent another hack from occurring, because they suspect the hackers will try to gain access to the networks again.

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“Cyber attacks by foreign governments are a constant threat to political campaigns,” wrote the New York Times. “Because campaign operations are temporary, they often do not invest heavily in the kind of security apparatus that financial institutions, large companies and government agencies spend millions or billions of dollars on each year. And because campaigns are so far-flung, with volunteers connecting through laptops and cellphones, they are particularly vulnerable.”

A U.S. government official told CNN that they have not confirmed that the hackers were from the Russian government, even though CrowdStrike seems pretty sure that was the case.

Donald Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past, and Putin has called Trump “a very bright and talented man,” according to Mother Jones. Trump has said he would like to improve relations with Russia if he becomes president.

Much of the data the hackers received from the opposition research likely would have been made public at some point anyway, but it’s clear some people in Russia have an interest in Donald Trump.

[Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images]